Brand Identity Overview

The University of San Diego’s brand is based on a commitment to, and belief in, our mission, values and distinctions. Beyond logos and slogans, our brand is reflected in what we do and say, what we print and proclaim and what message we impart as an institution, and as members of the university community.

The key to enhancing the University of San Diego's brand is a consistent and reliable approach to its visual identity, which builds and protects its image. Consistency in the way all marketing materials look promotes instant recognition to all who see what the university has to offer. Each entity on campus will have different needs in designing materials for print, web marketing, advertising and promotions.

While the guidelines provide a basic foundation for developing marketing materials, the university acknowledges that these standards cannot address every situation that may arise.


Download the most current USD Brand Identity Overview booklet.


Brand Personality

This section addresses the University of San Diego's personality and includes some basic information such as how to refer to the university's name in marketing materials. It also outlines information about the university's history, mission statement, vision statement and core values. Also find an overview of the university's brand promise, brand attributes and tips for how to articulate our brand in a matter of seconds.

University History

The importance of the University of San Diego's visual identity can be traced to Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill, superior vicar of the Religious of the Sacred Heart and superior of the San Francisco College for Women. In 1937, she was contacted by Bishop Charles Francis Buddy, newly assigned as the first bishop of the Diocese of San Diego. The bishop, who was educated by the Religious of the Sacred Heart, was clear about his intentions. He wanted to build an institution of higher education that would provide the best in sacred and secular learning. Bishop Buddy discussed with Mother Hill his vision of a Catholic college in his new diocese, and she agreed to help.

The two founders chose a site and named it Alcalá Park, in honor of San Diego, a Franciscan lay brother from the Spanish town of Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid in Spain. Inspired by the University of Alcalá de Henares, Mother Hill chose Spanish Renaissance architecture for the university's first structure. Mother Hill felt that although usefulness and efficiency must always prevail, they should not overpower beauty. The university in Spain not only served as a model for USD's founders physically, through its architectural style, but, philosophically through its determination to prevail as an educational institution that serves society and the human condition.

With that in mind, Mother Hill plotted the floor plans for the San Diego College for Women. Groundbreaking occurred in May of 1948, and the College for Women opened its doors in 1952 with 50 students, a handful of professors and a campus still under construction. In the spring of 1954, the men's institution had temporary quarters as professors welcomed 39 students in the San Diego College for Men and 60 students in the School of Law.

In 1965, the Second Vatican Council encouraged Catholic colleges and universities to "unite in a mutual sharing of effort." With this directive from the church, the institutions began the process of combining academic, fiscal and physical resources. In 1972, they merged to become the University of San Diego.

Brand Characteristics

To understand what's at the heart of the university's brand, it is helpful to be familiar with its voice and appreciate the many ways it speaks to people. The Spanish Renaissance architecture says that USD is timeless, traditional and steeped in Catholic heritage. The innovative programs housed in its buildings say USD's liberal arts education is contemporary and cutting-edge.

The caliber of the faculty members — recognized leaders in their respective fields for everything from teaching techniques to academic research — says students will receive the finest education. The university's small class sizes say professors aren't just teachers but, lifelong mentors. The university's global focus on border relations with Mexico and peacemaking efforts from Nepal to Uganda says that the University of San Diego is making a difference around the world. And the more than 50,000 hours of community service that students dedicate each year say that USD is changing lives right in San Diego.

These are just some of the ways the University of San Diego speaks to people — not just in words, but, in actions. When people see something that carries the university's name or logo, it should call to mind these characteristics, values, standards and goals. All of these qualities are part of USD's identity, its very essence. The USD brand is a powerful communication tool that must be wielded with care.

Brand Promise

The University of San Diego is a leading Catholic institution for socially conscious students who strive to serve as ethical leaders and to connect their values to success.

Brand Attributes

  • These attributes are what the university is, what it believes in and what makes it stand out.
  • Rich Catholic tradition
  • Small class sizes taught not by teaching assistants but by professors, most of whom have earned the highest degrees in their fields
  • Rigorous academics that require hands-on research by graduate and undergraduate students
  • A global perspective that teaches students how to work toward peace and justice
  • A curricula that combine learning with compassionate community service
  • Classes infused with a focus on ethics and values
  • A peaceful setting defined by Spanish Renaissance architecture

What's in a Name?

Consistently using the name University of San Diego is vital in building and guarding the university's identity and image. The goal is to make sure that the University of San Diego is known and instantly recognized — in name and in unparalleled reputation — throughout the region, across the nation and around the world.

Rules for Referring to the University of San Diego

The university's name is University of San Diego, not The University of San Diego. Do not capitalize the word the when it precedes the university's official name.

All marketing materials and formal or official correspondence must use the university's full, official name, University of San Diego, on first reference. On second reference, the institution may either be referred to as the university or as USD.

Alphabet Soup: The ABCs of Our Name

Whether referring to the University of San Diego in conversation or in written materials, extreme care must be taken when calling it USD. The problem is labeled by some as an "alphabet soup" issue. The acronym isn't universally recognized and is often confused for other institutions in the San Diego area, whose names share the same letters. And USD, when used in conversation, can sometimes even be misheard by others as USC. So, rather than being forced to define ourselves by who we aren't — rather than by who we are — it's best to limit the use of the USD acronym.

Do not start a sentence with the USD acronym. For example, do not say, "USD was recognized for its unrivaled approach to teaching." It is preferable to begin second-reference sentences with this type of phrasing, "The university was recognized for its unrivaled approach to teaching."

Do not capitalize the word "university" when it stands apart from the official name, University of San Diego. The word "university" should be lowercase in all other references. (Example: There are more than 7,000 students at the university.)

Elevator Speech

Elevator speeches were invented in Hollywood where producers, writers or directors took the opportunity to pitch movie ideas to busy agents and studio executives during chance meetings in hallways and on elevators. Smart writers and producers honed their elevator speeches to three or four seconds.

Marketing and communication specialists have adapted the elevator speeches for the corporate world. Studies have shown that 16 seconds is the average time spent with a stranger in an elevator. It's also the time needed to make a favorable first impression and deliver a speech about what a company or organization has to offer.

University of San Diego's Elevator Speech

"The University of San Diego is a small, private, Catholic university where students get a strong liberal arts education, one-on-one time with professors, hands-on research skills and a chance to serve the community and promote peace and justice around the world."

Envisioning 2024

Inspired by faith, informed by our core mission and values, and dedicated to the ongoing legacy of our founders, the University of San Diego's new strategic plan envisions a more distinctive identity among the most respected Catholic universities in the world.

Learn more about the strategic plan at sandiego.edu/envisioning-2024.